The Rise of Bastille

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Bastille’s rise to fame has been quite the whirlwind. They may have formed in 2010, but since the release of their first single in April 2012, things have only escalated for the band. Eighteen months later, with a sold out US tour and a number one album under their belts, I caught up with Bastille founder and frontman Dan Smith, and keyboard/synth player Kyle Simmons, at their recent Portsmouth Guildhall show, on a rather special day for the band.

“It should be uploaded now” says Smith about the music video for new single ‘Of The Night’. We communally cheered before kicking off the interview in which The Edge were the first to get the low down on their new single ‘Of The Night’. “We’ve always felt ownership over that version” says Smith as we discuss how people will react to the band releasing a cover; a mashup of Snap!’s 90’s hit ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ and Corona’s ‘The Rhythm of the Night’ which first featured on the band’s February 2012 mixtape Other People’s Heartache.

There was, “so much demand from people to have it” enthuses Smith as the song has always been a crowd favourite at their live shows. “There’s our fan base who know the breadth of what we do and then there are people that would have only heard ‘Pompeii’, we’re quite keen to show people that there is quite a lot more to what we do and what we want to do”.

The music video itself stars Hollywood actor James Russo (Django Unchained, Gangs of New York) and as Simmons said, “he’s got probably the best face in the world”. Smith explained how the band got to be on set, “almost passively for the first time just watching actors at work”. The music video follows James Russo’s character around as he visits the scenes of a series of deaths, a true juxtaposition of the song, as Simmons says, “the video is the complete opposite of upbeat and happy”. Smith adds, “it’s fittingly Bastille, it’s weird, it’s dark, it’s a lot weirder than other stuff that we’ve done”.

Off the back of a manic festival season, of which Bestival was the highlight, Bastille travelled across the pond to the States for their full US tour. “Before we could even register it the tour had sold out” Simmons utters in a speechless fashion. Despite the immediate fame in the States, Smith keeps grounded, “to even make a dent you’ve got to start again, we’re aware that we haven’t even begun. As a band we had one of the funnest tours we’ve ever done. Every city, every state you go to is so iconic and there is so much stuff that you’ve seen in films and TV shows and read about in history books, it makes the traveling part really fun”.

Upon asking for an appropriate anecdote about their time in America, Simmons and Smith told me, after much deliberation, about doing a session at Capital Studios, “It’s the LA equivalent of Abbey Road, he [Bastille’s US A&R representative] did a massive production of ‘Pompeii’ for a twenty piece film orchestra, it’s the most beautiful thing”. Smith, clearly excited, shows me a recording of the session on his iPhone.

Topping off such an amazing experience comes the news that it was on the same day as their performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “It feels ridiculous to us that we’ve done three trips to America and on the second one we were on the Conan O’Brien show, and then Jimmy Kimmel on the third”.

Having just got back from this vast and successful stint in the US, Bastille are now in the midst of their autumn UK tour, but it won’t be long before they head out to once again tour Europe, and then South Africa. “It’s completely incomprehensible” Smith remarks on the fact that they’ve already sold 20,000 tickets in the country. “I think I’ve done one phone interview with someone in South Africa and that’s it”.

In Radio One’s Live Lounge Bastille recently performed a rendition of Miley Cyrus’ ‘We Can’t Stop’, I asked the band what made them choose the song. “We picked the song a couple of months before the session, and then watched twerking unveil in front of us” says the frontman, “it’s all annoyingly unavoidable”. With the rise of YouTube virality and hits counting towards US single sales, Simmons added “that’s the world we live in, people are obviously going to try and cash in on it, if you want a number one, you can do that to get it”.

Bringing my time with the band to a close they revealed some interesting things to come, with The Edge being the first to chat with them about it. Smith explained how the band are “playing three new songs tonight, ‘The Draw’, ‘Campus’ and ‘Blame’, it’s nice to throw a few wild cards in the mix amongst the tracks from Bad Blood; one new song will be released quite soon and the other two are still works in progress that will be on the next album”. As well as this he enthused about the addition of guitars to their song writing process: “because we’ve never had guitars they feel like a massive novelty to us, I hope we can find a way to incorporate it into what we do and use it to progress our sound”.

With this exciting news came the announcement of their upcoming two-disc record All This Bad Blood: “we’re releasing it in November, it feels like a complete representation of what we have done so far and what we’d like to do in the future. The first part allows us to properly release the tracks that we love and play live all the time but couldn’t fit on our proper debut. The second part is a mini version of one of our mixtapes which weaves in a couple of new songs. With those two new songs we wanted to stake the boundaries of the two places we could go, and hope to go, on the next album. There’s one really electronic song and one quite heavy guitar song. We’ve always felt quite free to do what we want to do, so this is showing the listener that these are the two extremes we could go. Despite sonic changes, they still feel very Bastille, that’s our aim”.

As seen in the Features section of Issue 2 of The Edge. For the full Q & A with the band head here

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I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.

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